northern Colorado

Friday’s Featured Festival: Greeley Oktoberfest

Volkstanzgruppe Dancers at Oktoberfest in Greeley, Colorado

The Volkstanzgruppe Dancers entertained the crowd and gave free lessons. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned the Greeley Oktoberfest on HeidiTown, and long before they became an advertiser here, I thought this was one of the best Oktoberfest in Colorado. One of the reasons this fest is so successful is that the entire Greeley community is invested and comes out to the party.

This year’s fest runs Friday, September 28 through Saturday, the 29th.

Greeley Oktoberfest is a signature event in Northern Colorado, and there are lots of reasons why. Admission is free and families can come and stay all day without anyone getting bored.

There’s a full lineup of entertainment for all ages, including the always popular beer pong with giant balls and buckets. It’s a hoot and Ryan and I totally got addicted to it when we played.

This is a huge festival and it takes up nearly all of Lincoln Park in the heart of historic, downtown Greeley.

The event kicks off Friday evening, September 28, at 5:30 p.m. with the Tom Allan Grengs Polka Band. From 7:30 to 10 p.m. BeatGrass, a bluegrass band with a twist, takes the stage.

On Saturday, September 29, the festival gets underway at 11 a.m. with the Children’s Chorale, followed by the Mayor’s Proclamation at 11:45 a.m.

The rest of the day’s entertainment includes UNC Jazz, Vokstanzgruppe, Kyle Redman and Ronnie Ekhart and the Dutch Hop Makers.

Greeley Oktoberfest commemorative tasting glass 2012

The 2012 commemorative tasting glass.Photo from Greeley Oktoberfest on Facebook.

New this year, a VIP Beer Tasting Tent open on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Visitors to the tent receive a commemorative tasting glass, get to sample reserve beers and meet and greet professional brewers.  Tickets are $30, and can be purchased on the day of the event.

Lincoln Park provides the ideal setting for the event, and the best part of Greeley Oktoberfest is the ambiance. I write a lot about what makes a good festival and this Oktoberfest ticks all the boxes.

Head out to Greeley next weekend for a beer, a brat and a little polka – you won’t be disappointed.

To keep tabs on everything happening in downtown Greeley, go to and be sure to join the Greeley Oktoberfest on Facebook.

HeidiTown on the radio – Agritourism events around Colorado this September

Ripe wheat earsIt’s Monday, and that means this week’s segment from KRFC 88.9 FM is here!

By the way, September 14-22 is KRFC’s membership drive. This is a 100% community run radio station and it takes donations to keep the doors open. There are all sorts of membership levels to choose from so become a member today and help keep shows like HeidiTown on the air!


Now on to our regular scheduled blog post.

Last week I wrote about agritourism, and on this week’s radio show I share some upcoming agritourism-related events happening around Colorado including harvest festivals and a top-notch foodie event in Denver.


Fiddler on the Roof ““ delights through song, inspires through art

Fiddler on the Roof

Patrick Sawyer & Melissa Swift-Sawyer as Tevye & Golde in Fiddler on the Roof at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. Courtesy photo.

My parents were fairly strict about movies when I was a child, but the 1971 musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” was allowed in our home, and it became a childhood favorite. As a child, I also saw the play, and was enamored with it as well, so as you can imagine, I was looking forward to Candlelight’s production

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is in its fifth season, and the well-appointed theater is located in Johnstown, Colorado, just south of Loveland, near the famed Johnson’s Corner.

We saw “Fiddler” on a Thursday night, and much to my delight our drink server was Bren Eyestone Burron. I’m a big fan of Bren, who appeared in my favorite production of “Chicago” a number of years ago at Boulder’s Dinner Theater.

Bren convinced me to try the one of the show’s drink specials, but I failed to write down the name. It was a twist on a Cape Cod, and arrived with a garnish of freshly sliced apples. Candlelight’s specialty drinks are always a delight. Ryan ordered a margarita, and was disappointed that it arrived in a pint glass. However, the marg was quite tasty, despite the glass.

Candelight changes up their menu to complement the show, and for “Fiddler” they opted for stuffed cabbage rolls and roasted green peppers, in addition to a chicken and fish dish, as well as the upgrades.

The stuffed cabbage rolls were delicious, but the roasted green peppers with quinoa, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, feta cheese and onions, served with a potato latke and steamed vegetables is a real winner. It may be a vegetarian dish, but it’s so flavorful you won’t miss the meat. Ryan declared it was the tastiest meal he’d ever eaten at a dinner theater – high praise coming from a serious meat eater.

Once the show got underway, the audience was transported to Russia, where a tightknit Jewish community is faced with changing times. The most unique part of this production is the set. The set design was influenced by the work of artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

Chagall’s art has a childlike whimsy, and his most famous paintings were of Jewish villages. His work was bright and simple, filled with nostalgia and a slightly fantastical picture of his people and their ancient religion.

The Candlelight has brought this whimsical approach to the stage with a quirky set that serves as functional art. I’m not going to try to describe the set in this review, but it adds a wonderful sense of joy to this story.

For those unfamiliar with “Fiddler on the Roof,” it is the story of Tevye, the dairyman, his wife, Golde and his five daughters. Tevye and Golde are played by real life husband and wife Patrick Sawyer and Melissa Swift-Sawyer. Their onstage connection is palpable, and their duets are the best in the show.

The music and dancing in this production had the audience tapping their toes, and at times, even singing along. After all, “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset” are well-known and much-loved tunes.

As Tevye struggles to do what is right by his five daughters and by God, his good intentions are thwarted at every turn. His frustration comes out in song, and Patrick Sawyer’s portrayal of this exasperated father is truly moving.

I always talk about scene stealers when I write theater reviews, but Sawyer holds his own in this production of “Fiddler.” He is the star, and he lives up to the job. However, Barb Reeves as the matchmaker, Yente, has great comedic timing and managed to get the audience hooting with laughter on more than one occasion.

Despite being set in a Jewish community in Tsarist Russia, the 1964 musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” is timeless. We can all related to Tevye struggles with a changing world, and his desire to do the right thing, even when the right thing proves to be the most difficult.

With an inspired set and standout performances “Fiddler on the Roof,” at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, should be on your schedule this fall. It is playing now through October 28, 2012. Visit for show times and ticket information.

HeidiTown on the radio – Car shows, community festivals & scenic fall drives around Colorado

fall flowers in Colorado

Fall flowers in Colorado. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

For those of you who may be new to HeidiTown, each week I have a radio segment on KRFC 88.9 FM in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s a community-ran public radio station broadcasting around Northern Colorado and beyond. My HeidiTown segments run on Wednesday around 12:30 p.m. and Friday at 5:30 p.m.

This week I share about some fun things happening around Northern Colorado in September, including a car show this weekend and several community festivals. I also mention a favorite scenic fall drive, that I have blogged as well. Read “Scenic Autumn Drives in Colorado with a Destination” here.

Listen to this week’s show HERE. Gives Back: Larimer Animal-People Partnership

LAPP logo lg purpleAs a reminder, I started the HeidiTown Gives Back Campaign in February 2012, as a way to highlight some great Colorado charities by giving them a blog post and free, one month ad space on So far, five nonprofits have participated.

This month’s recipient of the Gives Back campaign is Larimer Animal-People Partnership.

This organization came to my attention several years ago because I write about events and LAPP holds the Doggie Olympics each September in Fort Collins. The 17th Annual Doggie Olympics is scheduled for Sunday, September 23, 2012.

I had the opportunity to researched LAPP last year while writing an article about working and therapy dogs for a local Northern Colorado magazine, and was truly moved by what this organization does.

The Larimer Animal-People Partnership was founded in 1990, and is affiliated with the Delta Society. Many of their members represent other animal-related or service organizations throughout the community.

What is the mission of Larimer Animal-People Partnership?

This is a group of people who believe in the power of the human-animal bond. Animals have healing abilities that are powerful and mysterious. I know this to be true because I’ve seen examples of it in my own life.

LAPP strives to encourage positive interactions between humans and animals. They work to increase public awareness of the significance of the human-animal bond by offering presentations and community service programs.

Community service programs including outreach at Crossroads Safehouse, a shelter for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Team members at LAPP also conduct library visits to read with children.  Teams work with the counseling staff in the Teen Residential Treatment Center at Mountain Crest Psychiatric Hospital and routinely visit Oakbrook II, an independent living community for the elderly. LAPP teams are often involved in other community outreach programs involving animals.

I am happy to be donating free ad space to this worthy organization for the month of September, and I hope you will check out the Doggie Olympics on September 23 at Civic Center Park in Fort Collins, Colorado. This event is an opportunity for your dog to strut her stuff in a fun and safe environment. Learn all about the 17th Annual Doggie Olympics and register HERE.

To learn more about Larimer Animal-People Partnership go to


HeidiTown on the radio – Family-friendly Colorado festivals

The Schuhplattlers at Berthoud Oktoberfest

The Schuhplattlers at Berthoud Oktoberfest 2011. (Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer, all rights reserved)

It’s time for another radio segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.

I’ve been on KRFC for over a year and that’s more than 52 weeks worth of festival information that has gone out to listeners. I sincerely appreciate KRFC giving me the opportunity to share HeidiTown with their audience and I look forward to another fun year.

Last week I was asked to speak to a local Fort Collins MOMS Group. They wanted me to talk about family-friendly festivals, and more specifically about events that were less hectic and easier to attend with children in tow.

After I gave the presentation, I realized that it would also make a very good radio segment, so I’ve shared it in this week’s segment.  Listen to it HERE.

All aboard the “Titanic” at the Union Colony Dinner Theater in Greeley, Colorado

Titanic LogoGreeley never ceases to surprise me. It’s an unassuming city, better known for beef than almost anything else, but then there’s the music. From the city’s inception, it has embraced music.

The last time I visited the Greeley History Museum, I learned that the city is home to one of the nation’s longest running orchestras. The University of Northern Colorado is also well-known for an outstanding School of Music, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that Greeley has a talented pool of musically inclined people to fill out the cast at Union Colony Dinner Theater.

This wasn’t my first evening outing in Greeley, but it was my first visit to UCDT, located upstairs in an historic building on 9th Street Plaza. The current show is “Titanic,” and I had never seen a stage production of this story.

Union Colony Dinner Theater is intimate and there’s no such thing as a bad seat. The cast uses the entire room, so don’t be surprised if someone starts singing right behind you during this show.

UCDT has a straightforward menu including a chicken Caesar salad, vegetarian pasta, shepherd’s pie and two upgrades of salmon and prime rib. You order your meal when you book your tickets.

We went with the salsa sampler appetizer, and were not disappointed – the mango salsa is a real winner. The chips are out of the bag, but the salsa makes up for it. The dinner salad came with a roll, and the lettuce was fresh and crisp.

I ordered a chardonnay, and my husband, Ryan, who has been obsessed with margaritas lately, ordered one on the rocks with Hornitos tequila. The UCDT bartender has some skills because Ryan raved about this margarita for the rest of the evening an into the next day.

I had preordered the salmon filet, and having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to salmon – thankfully it was cooked perfectly. I highly recommend upgrading to this delicious and savory dish.

Ryan raved more about his margarita than his shepherd’s pie, but the apple pie got high marks from both of us – Ryan liked the filling and I loved the light and crispy crust. UCDT also has very good coffee, always a plus at dinner theater.

The show opens with UCDT owner, Brandon Bill, on the piano, accompanied by violinist Alison Reifschneider. In fact, this duo provides all the music for this show, a real display of devotion by Bill to this production at his theater.

The cast waves goodbye in Titanic at UCDT

This is the largest cast for a production at Union Colony Dinner Theater. Courtesy photo.

The cast for this production of “Titanic” is the largest they’ve had at UCDT, and there are 36 bios in the playbill. The songs sung by the full cast sent shivers down my spine.

Nearly the entire script is sung, which takes a bit of time to get used to. All the musical numbers are accompanied by just the piano and violin, and with my own background in music, I believe this adds a layer of difficulty to being a part of the cast in this play.

There is little dancing in “Titanic,” but there is a bit of humor, despite the grave ending we’ve all known about since childhood. The character development is excellent, and by the time the ship goes down, I felt attached to several of the individuals on stage.

As I’ve mentioned in other dinner theater reviews, there’s also a scene stealer or two in every musical, and “Titanic” was no different. Kahlie Metz, plays Alice Beane, a middle-class passanger who is obsessed with the celebrities onboard the ship. Metz has good comedic timing and keeps the mood in the theater light with her comedic talents.

Owner of the Titanic saves himself.

The owner of the Titanic, Bruce Ismay, saves himself by boarding a life raft in front of women & children. Courtesy photo.

John Sonsa, who was also our waiter, plays the overbearing, power hungry owner of the Titanic. Thankfully he’s much nicer in real life than his character whose onstage outbursts startled the audience more than once.

I also enjoyed the performance by Mike Pearl, cast as ship steward, Henry Etches. Pearl has a consummate onstage presence that really shines.

At times, the musical abilities of the cast of “Titanic” stands out above the acting talent, but this is a solid musical that connects with the audience on multiple levels. I’m excited to see what is in store for UCDT with Brandon Bill at the helm.

“Titanic” plays through August 26, so book now before it sails away. Up next at Union Colony is “Once Upon a Mattress,” “5 Course Love,” “39 Steps,” and “Hello Dolly.” Learn more at or call (970) 352-2900. You can also find UCDT on Facebook.

HeidiTown on the radio – Bohemian Nights, a radio preview

Michael Franti

Courtesy photo. Michael Franti & Spearhead headline the first evening of Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, running August 10-12, 2012.

Last week, I previewed Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest on the blog and this week I’m also talking about it on my segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.

As one of the largest, FREE, music festivals in Colorado, it deserves an entire radio segment dedicated to the event.

Listen HERE.

Is Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest the best music festival in Colorado?

My parents met while singing in a traveling church band in the 70s, and on many childhood nights I fell asleep listening to my dad strumming his guitar downstairs. My mom, who is an accomplished pianist, laughingly used to accuse my dad of hugging his guitar more than her.

Obviously, I was born into a musical family, and I have an honest appreciation of musicians and live music. Unfortunately, I rarely write about music festivals on HeidiTown, in part because there are so many. I could start a blog dedicated entirely to Colorado music fests and never run out of material.

Earlier this year, I was lucky to be assigned to write about Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest by an editor in my freelance life. During the assignment I had the opportunity to meet many of the people behind the event and some of the musicians who are playing this year.

I have always thought Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest was a cool event, but after getting a glimpse behind the curtain, I am convinced it’s one of the best, if not the best, music fest in the state of Colorado.

Patti Fiasco

Courtesy photo. The Patti Fiasco. Click the photo to go to this band's Facebook page.

So what makes Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest so great?

There are several reasons this fest rates so high in my mind. First, there’s the location. It takes a lot of strategic planning and cooperation between many organizations and the City of Fort Collins to put on a large, free festival in the heart of downtown. Most music festivals occur in a stadium or a farmer’s field, but this event takes place in Old Town Fort Collins. The location gives it a community vibe, and Old Town provides a lovely backdrop.

Another reason this festival is special is its longevity. This is the 24th year of this event that was originally just “NewWestFest” – a celebration of Fort Collins’ birthday. This summer the city turns 139, and she’s looking pretty good for her age.

The third and final reason this is a truly outstanding festival is that it is not only one of the largest, if not largest, gatherings of Colorado bands in the state, but it’s a chance for emerging artists to connect with new fans.

The event organizers spend hundreds of hours putting together a lineup that will please the crowds at Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, but will also surprise them. They deliberately do not have music-specific stages. In other words, you will not find a “Bluegrass Stage” or “Jazz Stage.” They want to expose music-lovers to bands they might not have otherwise discovered, and to give bands a chance to strut their stuff in front on a big stage.

Alison Krauss

Courtesy Photo. Alison Krauss & Union Station.

For years now, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest has been attracting nationally recognized headliners and this year is no exception. Michael Franti and Spearhead, Alison Krauss & Union Station with Jerry Douglas and the Gipsy Kings will play the main stage on Mountain Avenue during this three-day event.

I’m very excited to see these amazing headliners (for free), but I am also looking forward to hearing local bands like The Patti Fiasco. I interviewed the band’s front woman, Alysia Kraft, and she is a gifted singer/songwriter and performer. The Patti Fiasco plays the Library Stage on Friday, August 10 at 5 p.m.

Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest runs Friday, August 10 through Sunday, August 12. Around 100 bands are scheduled to play over the three days on six music stages. There are also two entertainment stages, lots of arts, crafts and food vendors, and of course, beer gardens.

I have a lot of readers in the Denver area, and I promise you, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest is worth the drive to Fort Collins. Yes, it will be crowded, and yes, it’s almost always hot, but if you visit with an open mind and the goal of discovering a new and exciting band, you will not be disappointed.

For more information:

Big hair, big girls, big fun at Midtown Arts Center’s “Hairspray”

Tracy & Link Hairspray

Tracy & Link in "Hairspray" at MIdTown Arts Center. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

Fort Collins, Colorado is a long way from Baltimore, Maryland and the race wars of the sixties, so will audiences connect with Midtown Arts Center’s current production? I believe they will because the themes of “Hairspray” are timeless, the music is catchy, and the cast is unforgettable.

Midtown Arts Center, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, has a well-appointed, 236 seat dinner theater, as well as a banquet room where they host a weekly show of The Dinner Detective and  private events.

I started out the evening with a Peyton Place After Midnight, a drink from their specialty menu. The vodka, cucumber and lemon juice combo garnished with blue cheese stuffed olives was sweet and salty, and I call it “happiness in a martini glass.”

There were some changeups to the dinner menu since our last trip, including a new upgrade of Yellow Fin Tuna served over a citrus coconut risotto cake and drizzled with cilantro lime coconut reduction. The risotto was perfection, but the tuna was overcooked.

My husband ordered the Chicken a la Tang from the standard entrée menu included in the ticket price. His dish had a fresh summery taste, and we both noted that our dishes were much more beautifully plated than in the past.

At intermission we paired a strawberry rhubarb pie with coffee. The crusty outer layer complemented the sweetness of berry and tartness of the rhubarb. We highly recommend trying this house made specialty.

And now on to the play, because the play’s the thing at dinner theater, and without a doubt “Hairspray” is the best all-round performance I’ve seen at Midtown Arts Center to-date. The cast is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, as the director recruited in New York for this particular show.

Co-ed Dance Scene Hairspray

Some of the cast of "Hairspray" were recruited from New York. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

“Hairspray” is the story of an overweight teen girl name Tracy Tumblad (Maggie Walker) who dreams of being on a television dance program called, “The Corny Collins Show.” This musical is set in Baltimore during the race tensions of the sixties, and “The Corny Collins Show” features a cast of pretty, skinny, white kids.

Tracy is a spunky character whose naivety is actually her strength. She spends her time in school detention learning dance moves from the black kids, and when she ends up being cast on “The Corny Collins Show,” the real fun begins. Actually, the entire musical is fun, from the opening song, “Good Morning Baltimore,” to the company’s closing rendition of “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

It’s hard to point to just a few highlights in this show, because every musical dance number in Midtown’s production of “Hairspray” is truly wonderful. The talent of the cast is apparent with each toe tap, every hip gyration and every note.

Edna Tumblad is played by Michael Lasris, yes, Michael. Cross dressing seems to be a trend in the last couple musicals I’ve seen (see my review of Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s Cinderella here). Lasris, as the no nonsense mother of Tracy, is a scene stealer in this role, as is Kelsey Hopkins who plays Penny. Once again, Ryane Nicole Studivant, as Motormouth Maybelle, proves to Midtown audiences that she’s a powerhouse singer.

Girls dance scene Hairspray

Michael Lasris stealing the scene in "Hairspray" at Midtown Arts Center. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

On my last trip to Midtown, I was unimpressed with the set for “Sound of Music.” This time around, I am happy to report that they’ve created a clever set that is as dynamic as the musical. It’s bright and cheerful, just like the onstage costumes and big hair.

“Hairspray” is now playing through September 1, 2012.  You can purchase tickets at and be sure to join Midtown Arts Center on Facebook here.


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